55 Things Grandparents Should Never Do

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1. Request more grandchildren.
Not every family has the means or the desire to have multiple children, and for some, like those struggling with fertility issues, fielding requests for additional grandkids can be painful. Before you say something that could potentially strain your relationship, just remember how lucky you are to be a grandparent in the first place. And for some insight into the generational shifts in parenting, here are 50 Ways Parenting Has Changed in the Last 50 Years.

2. Give naming advice.
Even if you have a family tradition of passing down names generation after generation, that doesn’t mean your own children will continue the trend. The more you suggest a name—or, worse, insist on a name—the more you’re guaranteed to annoy not only your child but also your child’s spouse. At best, your suggestions will be ignored; at worst, resented. And for a look at some once-beloved baby names, check out these 25 Once-Great Baby Names That Are Ruined for Everyone Else.

3. Hand off your grandkids to anyone who wants to hold them.
While you may want to share the joy of holding your grandchildren with others, that doesn’t mean a stranger in Target should get to hold your grandchild, too. Everyone who comments on how cute your grandkids are shouldn’t actually get to hold them. After all, you never know who’s sick with something they could pass onto that vulnerable little one. And for more information on common germs kids encounter, check out The Most Common Germs Found in Classrooms.

4. Or let other folks watch your grandkids.
So, you’ve got the grandkids for the weekend, but you’d also hoped to see some friends who are in town. And since the little ones are already asleep, it’s no big deal to let your responsible, reliable neighbor keep watch over the baby monitor from your living room while you head out for an hour or two, right? Nope! If you’re the one who agreed to watch your grandkids, you’d better make sure you’re the one who’s actually watching them the whole time they’re under your care or you risk being dismissed from the job.

5. Try to raise your grandkids like you did your own children.
Every family is different, so the things you did as a parent won’t necessarily fly when you have grandkids. As a grandparent, you’re beholden to your grandchild’s parents’ rules, and you’d be well-advised to stick to them if you want to keep spending time with your grandkids. After all, even if you think you really nailed the parenting thing, your own kid probably has a slightly different opinion of how their childhood went down.

6. Use unsafe sleep practices.
As babies, your children may have slept on their bellies in cribs full of stuffed animals and blankets. But if your now grown-up babies insist upon only using sleep practices recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for their kids, it’s your job to stick to them. Don’t just assume that everything will be fine because you have anecdotal evidence to support your position—if your kids say the baby goes on their back in an empty crib, that’s how they need to sleep, even at your house.

7. Be lax about car seat safety.
Car accidents are a leading cause of death and injury among children in the United States, meaning car seat safety is no laughing matter. Even if kids were allowed to sit in the front seat or you played fast and loose with your own kids’ seatbelts or restraints and they survived, that doesn’t mean doing the same is acceptable with your grandkids. You may not get to drive them around any longer if you don’t abide by their parents’ rules on the road. And for more on the unsafe parenting practice of yore, here are 23 Things Our Parents Did That We Could Never Do Today.

8. Break bedtime rules.
Getting kids to bed is difficult enough as it is without having someone breaking the bedtime rules and letting them stay up until all hours. If you want to stay on your own kids’ good side, it’s important to make sure their kids adhere to their bedtimes, even if you think staying up late once in a while couldn’t hurt.

9. Disregard instructions about discipline.
If your grandchild’s parents have a specific policy regarding the discipline of their child, it’s up to the grandparents to follow that procedure, too. That means abiding by their rules, no matter how silly they may seem to you.

10. Or reward bad behavior.
Yes, an additional showing of The Little Mermaid might get your flailing toddler grandchild to calm down, but, in most cases, so would ignoring that tantrum. And if you’re giving into your grandkids’ fits, you’re only making it harder for their parents to deal with them via their own methods at home.

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11. Give your input about a parent’s choice to work or stay home.
It makes sense for some families to have one parent stay home, while others cover the ever-rising cost of childcare by having both parents work. Even if you have strong opinions about who is juggling what, you’d be very wise to keep them to yourself. And for some more information on women in this situation, here are 33 Things No One Tells You About Being a Stay-at-Home Mom.

12. Insist on outfits for the new baby.
Is that tiny sailor suit you brought for your new grandchild adorable? Sure. Is it also more than a bit rude to insist upon the new parents dressing their child in it? Definitely. Sure, you want your gift worn by your new grandkid for a special occasion. Unfortunately though, it’s not your place to make sure that they’re wearing something you got them for their first family photos.

13. Discuss “baby weight.”
While new parents may be eager to shed the weight that they gained during pregnancy, it’s never fun to have someone else start a conversation about it. If you wouldn’t tell someone to lose weight apropos of nothing, it’s not appropriate to do it during the particularly vulnerable time after they’ve given birth, either.

14. Or comment on your grandkids’ weight.
Whether they’re skinny or on the heavy side, grandparents who make comments about their grandkids’ weight are likely to endure the ire of their kids and grandkids alike. It’s no big deal if you don’t serve dessert at your house or encourage your grandkids to take hikes instead of watching TV when they’re staying at your house. But telling them that they’ve gained a few, or saying their thin frame looks sickly isn’t likely to get them to eat healthier. Instead, doing so could be the catalyst for a lifetime of self-doubt—or even disordered eating. In fact, a 2014 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health suggests a strong link between caretakers’ feeding practices and unhealthy attitudes related to eating. So be sure to think about how to approach these topics sensitively.

15. Force your grandkids to clean their plates.
Joining the Clean Plate Club may have been essential for your own kids, but that doesn’t mean your grandchildren have to follow suit. Actually, research from the Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science suggests that how a child is fed—and not just what they’re fed—is a major factor in childhood obesity.

16. Or supply a bottomless amount of treats.
Grandparents are notorious for indulging their grandchildren, but that doesn’t mean you should take every opportunity to load them with sugar. Not only is having ice cream on a daily basis decidedly not a doctor-recommended practice, but doing so can also make it difficult for parents to get their kids to return to a healthier diet when they get back home.

17. Or criticize their parents’ food choices.
You may not think that there’s much of a difference between organic food and the less expensive stuff your kids were raised on, but that doesn’t mean you can simply ignore how your grandkids’ parents want them to be fed. Silly as it may seem to you, if they say that organic cheese puffs and fruit snacks are better than the traditional packaged versions, it’s your job to oblige.

18. Give unsolicited advice about feeding practices.
There’s enough of a raging debate on the internet and in public spaces about the relative benefits of breastfeeding versus formula feeding, so there’s no need to add to it personally. There are countless factors behind why someone might choose to do one or the other, including medical issues, work schedules, and personal preference, so inserting your own opinion into the conversation will only add to a parent’s frustration.

19. Ignore health requirements.
No matter how ridiculous you might think a parent’s request to wash your hands one more time before you hold their baby might be, it’s their prerogative to ask you. And if you choose not to comply, don’t be surprised when they don’t let you around their precious little one.

20. Or use dodgy remedies for medical issues.
If your grandchild’s parents tell you to give them a frozen washcloth or baby-safe pain medicine to relieve their teething issues, it’s important to adhere to those rules. If they come back and find their child weeping as you rub whiskey on their gums, you may not get to babysit again.

21. Insist upon holding a crying baby.
If your grandchild starts crying for their parents, don’t insist upon continuing to hold them. You may think you’re a baby whisperer, but that trick that always worked to stop your own offspring from crying when they were little isn’t foolproof—and keeping an upset child from their main sources of comfort will likely only make the problem worse.

22. Compare your grandkids to their parents.
Every family is different, and inviting comparisons between your kids and their kids is bound to make someone feel less worthy. While you may see your grandchildren as perfect angels compared to their parents, juxtaposing the two won’t go over well.

23. Repeat your own parenting mistakes.
Just because you did something a certain way when your kids were growing up doesn’t mean that you should keep repeating those same choices with your grandkids—especially if you found that doing so had some adverse outcomes. Your kids and your grandchildren are different people, and simply repeating your own parenting patterns doesn’t account for how the times have changed—or who your grandkids are as individuals.

24. Criticize your kids in front of your grandkids.
You may not think your children are parenting their kids right, but that doesn’t mean it’s ever okay to tell your grandkids that. It’s important for kids to see their adult role models as members of the same team—and, at the very least, you should remember that virtually anything you say about a kid’s parents will end up repeated back to mom or dad.

25. Ignore potty training instructions.
Potty training can be a particularly difficult time, but it’s important you follow the rules to a T, lest you set your grandchild back. Yes, it may be more work for you, but it will definitely be easier in the long run when you’re not dealing with a six-year-old in diapers.


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